Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dozens Combustible Dust Fatalities and Injuries Unaccounted

As H.R. 5522, the Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act bill moves to the House floor shortly, dozens of fatalities and injuries are unaccounted for. Legislators, governmental agencies, and industry trade associations only have a partial picture of the magnitude of the threat posed to the workplace by the hidden dangers of combustible dusts.

Over the past decade 14 documented fatalities and 47 injuries have occurred in two dozen combustible dust explosions and fires that were not included in the official 2006 Chemical Safety Board Combustible Dust Study. Many of the incidents were not cleared for public release due to pending court cases. With the passage of time this information now becomes available to the public through governmental databases.

Chemical Safety Board

The Chemical Safety Board has provided the public with an excellent service considering their limited annual budget of less than $10 million dollars. Most of the workplace accidents consisting of fires and explosions go uninvestigated by the CSB due to limited resources. Innovation combined with computer technology the agency provides helpful feedback to the workplace on root causes of accidents so they don’t occur again. Most helpful to the process industries are the DVD’s that are offered free of charge which are excellent safety training tools for veterans and newcomers to the industry.

As a federal independent investigative agency, the CSB is limited in breath and depth while conducting research on past incidents. Especially troublesome is the absence of central database with records of workplace accidents consisting of fires and explosions. Concerning the Combustible Dust Hazard Study, the CSB did not represent the data as complete or error-free. Especially since the combustible dust incidents were only a small sampling.

Recent Studies

Over the past two months, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute has completed cursory research on combustible dust explosions and fires and picked up were the CSB combustible dust studies ended. Over that past ten weeks since the Imperial Sugar Refinery explosion there have been over 30 combustible dusts related fires and explosions.

Hundreds of Incidents

Currently, many stakeholders both opponents and proponents of the proposed Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act, H.R. 5522, are under the assumption that there has been approximately 350 combustible dust fires and explosions since 1980. This is a very small sampling and a closer number would be approximately 3500 combustible dust explosions and fires over the last 28 years.

Either the earth, moon, sun, and planets were aligned in some unusual manner for the nearly three dozen combustible dust incidents to occur over the past ten weeks or now we have a better picture of the extent of the complex subject of combustible dust incidents occurring in the nation’s manufacturing process industries.

Resources

Chemical Safety Board

OSHA Integrated Management Information System database

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